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Zhangjiajie Travel Guide

zhangjiajie Map

Location: Zhangjiajie is located in the west of Hunnan Province, 330 kilometers from Changsha, the capital of Hunnan Province, over 1,000 kilometers from both Shanghai and Beijing.  

Zhangjiajie was thrust into foreigner travelers' eyes after the movie Avatar. The Hallelujah Mountains in Avatar were inspired by Heavenly Pillar in Zhangjiajie National Forest Park.

Zhangjiajie is famous for its precarious peaks, limpid streams, dense forests, and large karst caves. In 1982, Zhangjiajie National Forest Park became China's first national forest park.

Highlights

Hallelujah Mountains, Zhangjiajie The Hallelujah Mountains in Zhangjiajie National Forest Park.

The two must-see attractions in Zhangjiajie are the National Park and Tianmen Mountain.

Zhangjiajie National Forest Park, part of Wulingyuan Scenic Area, is large and needs at least two days to explore. The tour involves a lot of walking and climbing.

Less popular and less crowded than the forest Park, Tianmen Mountain is well worth a trip. The scenery is quite different from the national park, featuring mountain peak vistas, cliff path walking, and a cable car with fantastic views. It is a much easier trip than the forest park, with far less walking.

Zhangjiajie, Jiuzhaigou, or Guilin?

Tianzi Mountain, Zhangjiajie Shentang Wan (神堂湾)in Tianzi Mountain, Zhangjiajie Forest Park

A lot of travelers consider the differences between Zhangjiajie, Jiuzhaigou, and Guilin, and try to figure out which is the best to visit. Considering accessibility, travel comfort, and scenery…

  • Accessibility: Zhangjiajie is harder to access than Guilin, but easier to access than Jiuzhaigou.
  • Travel comfort: Guilin's best, Jiuzhaigou's second, and Zhangjiajie's third for quality of accommodation, facilities, and infrastructure.

Scenery

  • Guilin features water (the Li River and tributaries) and karst landscapes (bizarrely-shaped limestone hills).
  • Jiuzhaigou has colorful Alpine lakes, snowy peaks, and waterfalls in deep glacial valleys.
  • Zhangjiajie features “gravity-defying” mesas. The huge forest park pillars seem to float in seas of clouds.

For more of a comparison read China's Top National Parks.

When to Go

Late spring and summer are good times for the seas of clouds and warm/hot weather. Go in fall for the fabulous autumn hues and cooler, drier weather.

The cold wintery months are not recommended, with slippery, unsafe access; and attractions are closed if snow falls heavily and for maintenance in February. See more on Zhangjiajie's Climate.

Mists, Zhangjiajie Forest Park
Peaks in Mists in the forest park

Accessibility

There are a limited number of direct trains and flights from China's major tourist cities including Beijing, Shanghai, Chengdu, and Xi'an to Zhangjiajie. Despite infrastructure improvement (to facilitate tourism), Zhangjiajie is still a smaller city surrounded by mountains, with a small airport and no high-speed railway (though there are bullet trains to Changsha). Zhangjiajie, in northwest Hunan Province, south-central China is about 250 kilometers (160 miles) northwest from Changsha, capital of the province.

Zhangjiajie City is the gateway to the national park, which is 28 kilometers (17 miles) north on an 8-meter-wide rural road.

See Zhangjiajie Transport for more.

Where to Stay

pullman hotelZhangjiajie Pullman Hotel

Hotels in Zhangjiajie are relatively lower quality than hotels of the same star rating in other Chinese cities such Beijing, Shanghai, and Guilin. Except for 5-star hotels, hotels generally don't provide a Western breakfast and English is limited. We arrange for our customers to stay at Zhangjiajie Pullman Hotel, which is the best Zhangjiajie hotel according to TripAdvisor.

Most of the hotels in Zhangjiajie are concentrated in three areas: downtown Zhangjiajie, Wulingyuan (a small town adjacent to the national park), and inside Zhangjiajie National Forest Park. We suggest our customers stay at Wulingyuan most of the time, because it is convenient for sightseeing in the forest park, and some of the best hotels in the region are there, such as Zhangjiajie Pullman Hotel.

See How to Plan a Zhangjiajie Tour for more on accommodation and dining.

Dining

Food in Zhangjiajie is spicy and strong-flavoredHunan cuisine. Food options inside the National Park are very limited, but our guide will find the best restaurant available for our customers.

Food in Wulingyuan is betterthan in the park, but still limited. We have selected the best local restaurants for you to get an authentic culinary experience, not the tourist kind. Our guide will give you dining recommendations if you need any.

Travel to Zhangjiajie with China Highlights

A private guide and car is recommended for Zhangjiajie. The national park is quite large, confusing and crowded at most of the times. Our guide is helpful to get you where you want to go and negotiate the crowds.